Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest Home

I've never been so glad to see the summer end. It's not that I don't enjoy summer, it's just that it is prolonged here in Kentucky and sometimes unbearably hot. By early August you're done already! Fall and spring are lovely, and also long, and you enjoy going outside whenever possible. [We have four seasons here, which I am glad about, and this reshifting of what we're used to having back in the northeast for seasonal duration also provides us with a much shorter winter in Kentucky.] Today was in the 90s, but it's a dry heat and a cold front this weekend will bring more seasonable nights and days again. Despite the lingering heat, fall has arrived in the landscape and in the air. IMAGE: The last of the summer watermelon, along with an assortment of knobbly pumpkins and giant cushaws at our local Casey County Produce Auction.

Usually I get a bit melancholy with the earlier darkness, the shorter days and the cooler weather. Or saddened to see the Big Dipper start to drop down into the starry night of the northern skies by late August. Not any more. This year, summer's end is like a welcome balm. I am glad to see pumpkins and squash, crisp apples, withering cornstalks. I continue to can great quantities of things from summer's bounty. 

This was the sunset exactly a month ago, on August 22, 2010, with a tinge of fall in it. I love to watch the changing big skies throughout the seasons here in Kentucky. This is the view from my office window looking up towards the knob.
We have already enjoyed some cooler nights. I look forward to quiet time spent knitting, reading, and long hours working on new writing projects and other lingering tasks. I like a reason to be indoors and yet, here in winter, it is often possible to be outside, too. It will be great to go out walking again without misery.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

In the coming weeks and months I will try to blog more, too, and have some photos and other things to share along the way. Thank you, as always, for stopping by here in the pantry!

As the sun set on summer for the last time in 2010, the Harvest Moon was rising to the east over a distant storm front. Both photographs were shot around moon rise/sun set at 7:15pm on September 22, 2010 from the top of our knob on the farm.
My son Henry and I had supper together on a rare after school time to ourselves. At dusk we went to the top of the knob to watch the Harvest Moon rise and the sun set on summer 2010. Today is the first day of Autumn ~ one of my favorite words in the English language (next to "summer afternoon" and "crisp" and "luscious," of course).
Meet Woodrow. Bull about town. He's a ladies' man who knows what he likes. Prefers green pastures and strong women. Not into the dating scene or even monogamy and wants to get right down to business. Loves children. Surprisingly sweet, too (but you can never turn your back on a bull!).
Our first eight Angus calves, here with some of their mamas: born from early May to early August. This is our "Long Field" where they will spend much of their autumn days munching on Kentucky grasses.
Farewell to the summer!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Try to Remember

Our Valley View Farm from the top of our knob.
This song, sung by Patti Page and written for the musical, The Fantasicks (1959), has always prompted a nostalgic longing for me, even when I was barely verbal and first heard it on my parents hi-fi in our Akron living room in the early 1960s. What thoughts or memories does it conjure for you?
Try to remember – Patti Page


MP3 search on MP3hunting

And a Happy 100th to RMG ~ wherever you are!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Sometimes I land upright and realize, yes, that's it, it's been this way all along. Perhaps it was there all the time but I wasn't seeing and I wasn't listening. Rather than have that "ruthlessness to rest," as my great-grandmother used to write to her children (here "rest" as in "pause"), I have had a wanderlust for many months.

The Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" speaks to this necessity to pause right where we are: "Till by turning, turning we come round right." That's exactly what I've done these past few months: whirling and twirling and now fortunate to have landed on my feet again, but glad for having had the journey.

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

In the past six months I have been presented with several job opportunities, all from my own searching but each one, in its own way, something I feel I have been qualified to do and to do well. Problem is, I sense, with an especially tough job market now, that options are limited for writers or historians and certainly more competitive. I made the deliberate choice when my last job was downsized in 1997–– from site manager of an historic museum house to a part-time docent: I chose "I don't think so"––that it was time to have more children. We had been married not even a year and I was thirty-three, my husband forty-one. Our two boys were born within two-and-a-half years. ["The heir and the spare," as it is often referred to in jolly old primogenitured England.] I had our daughter in my mid-20s but that's another long and wonderful story.

My point is that well-educated little old me, who had worked hard at developing her career in historic preservation, public relations and freelance writing, felt it was important to be at home with her children. I had been reared in the "you can have everything you want" school: career, husband, children. But I knew better and I knew myself better than that: I have believed, for some time, that you can have everything you want, within reason, but certainly not all at the same time. If someone tells you otherwise, they are fooling themselves: their house-of-cards has to give somewhere (or they have a lot of hired help).

So I was able to be a stay-at-home mother and I hope it has served my children well (although perfectly organized, crafty and polished mother, I am not). Then we moved here several years ago, over the span of a year, and life has been busy and hectic and still not quite settled. We still have things in boxes and our real estate situation has more settling out to do yet. As my husband stretches out into the farm that we are creating, I'm often running around like some of my hens, cackling and scratching and generally in a twirl. He is project-based and linear where I am circular: he moves from A. to B. with great finesse, while I am dabbling in G., thinking about finishing A. and pondering X., Y. and Z. Occasionally I screech or peck at those around me, but I've been able to keep that to a dull roar. And, I've kept writing in some form, still selling the occasional magazine or newspaper article or copy of The Pantry from my home coffers (thank you all, for that!).

With each potential job opportunity there has been this expectation: what would the job bring in terms of challenges and income and benefits? How would it change our lives? But each job, as great it has been on paper, and as polished as I've been on paper, has not even led to an interview. This has been a bit discouraging, and also quite humbling. It has also been illuminating because I realize, finally, that I am meant to remain at home for the foreseeable future, perhaps consulting or working away from the ridge when the right opportunity may present itself, but not now. A few weeks ago when I realized this, I received a hearty check for a forthcoming article and some press-related queries on The Pantry. Around the same time I found some amazing writings from my grandmother, in an old college trunk of mine, some of which seemed to speak right to me [she was also a farm wife and a published magazine writer––and we share a focus issue, too]. The Universe was speaking to me and with a big, LOUD BANG!

So what am I going to do with all of this newly allowed "free" time, you may be asking? Well, I've given myself permission to write the stuff I want to write, to try to sell more articles and books. To blog more. To can food for winter and organize our house while we transition some more on the ridge. To be a more organized wife and mother. To start tackling a family archives project at last: for myself, for my extended family, for posterity. To walk again now that the hot summer is behind us and glorious warm fall days are here. To be more present with my family and have no regrets about what I'm not doing in the world, but to better focus on what I am doing. To be right where I am, "where I ought to be."

I've felt a bit like Dorothy in the past few months: looking for a different scenario than the one in my own back yard. Not only did I try so hard to get the right job that sometimes things backfired on me, despite my own efforts: like the time I was a "strong contender" last spring for a publications manager position, but they never received several key emails from me that would have weaned out the group to be interviewed. [I found this out two months after I first applied, when I had the guts to inquire as to what was going on: I have never had "dropped" emails before in my life, at least for something so significant!] There are other stories, some humorous, some pathetic: like when I virtually begged a headhunter (excuse me, a "Culture Catalyst"–don't ask) to convince the ad agency to let me write them some sample copy. I think that guy went running, and fast, leaving me a mere quip: "The agency is no longer in a particular urgency to hire at this time."

Finally, my own personal catalyst for this recent epiphany was this email response, when I inquired as to my status, after spending eight hours about a month ago crafting the pitch-perfect college development letter as another test of my writing abilities: "Thank you for your inquiry. We are in the interviewing stage for the position now but will bring in additional candidates as necessary. We hope to have some resolution to this search soon and will be informing all candidates of our decision." Perhaps I am reading too much into this but my gut says that, in other words: "You are way overqualified for this position (you nitwit), you will probably want a lot of money, and, most of all, you are old. And remember, don't call us, we'll call you for an interview, but only if our other younger, less qualified candidates don't pan out. As a lovely parting gift, you will eventually receive our generic 'We've filled this position but thank you and we wish you the very best in your job search' email. Now, thank you and go away."

"Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Sally O'Malley. I'm proud to say I'm fifty years old and I like to kick, stretch, and KICK! I'm FIFTY! Fifty years old..."

I've been out of the workforce for some time. I'm graying naturally and I kind of like that. I'm definitely middle-aged but my eyes can still laugh and twinkle or be tinged with melancholy. In my heart and my head I am still that idealistic, passionate twenty-five year old young woman. So, that woman is going to be my driving force now to accomplish the things at home and with my family, and in the world via my writing, that I want to do. Let's face it: writing is an ageless profession. Many women novelists, especially those who raised a family, got their start later in life. One of my favorite books on farm life, Little Heathens, was written and published by a woman in her 80s!

Now that this midlife crisis is effectively over (unless it is just beginning), I'm going to finish my canning this weekend: salsa today, peach jam and bread & butter pickles tomorrow. Then I'm going to tackle projects: both writing and otherwise. Little bites, one life at a time. Most of all, I'm going to "write and KICK!" as my now twenty-two year old daughter has so wisely advised. Because I'm (almost) fifty: fifty years old! And time waits for no one.